Dr. Stanley Aronson

Amusement was not on the required roster of life’s essentials for the tenement dwellers of New York City during the depression years of 1929-’39. The word amusement was then applied narrowly, describing parks in such shady enclaves as Coney Island. During a time when limitless access to diversions was but an electronic dream, self-generated family entertainment emerged as a vital element in ensuring domestic tranquility (“The family that plays together, stays together.”).

Dr. Stanley Aronson

It was once said, in the distant past, that an adolescent son should be advised to seek entrance to the profession of medicine if his morals were too malleable for the clergy, his stamina too fragile for the military and his arithmetical skills too rudimentary for the world of accounting. The character lapses underlying the choice of a profession such as medicine, however, are rarely documented, except perhaps in Gilbert and Sullivan operettas or the wellsprings of Jewish humor. 

Dr. Stanley AronsonMorris Gershovitz left St. Petersburg, Russia, in the early 1890s to seek a new life in America. He married Rose Bruskin in 1895, and they were blessed with four children. The first son, Isidore, was born in December 1896. Another son, Jacob, was born in 1898.

Isidore (called Ira by his friends) and Jacob (called George by the family) were vastly different in appearance, talents and aspirations; but nonetheless, they maintained a close friendship during their entire lives. Ira was reflective, shy, bookish; while George was gregarious, adventuresome and immensely self-assured. Ira drifted toward books while George, at age 10, developed a passion for the piano. In 1910, the family purchased an upright piano, and the destinies of both Gershwin boys were then irreversibly determined.

Dr. Stanley AronsonFew things in life are more subject to change than the range of therapies and palliative interventions that the modern physician can offer. Older physicians will recall that death had the controlling hand in the terminally ill patient; and when death became imminent, a physician’s skill was measured by the degree to which the dying process was eased. It was a quiet, non-heroic encounter, often with nurses, a rabbi and family sharing in a respectful acceptance of the impending biological reality.

These newly devised life-extending measures have now prolonged the lives of many thousands. But by creating an expanded netherworld between life and death, the medical interventions have blurred the frontiers that separated the two. And, in so doing, they have placed a greater moral burden upon those physicians who now possess the means to alter, if only temporarily, these boundaries.

Dr. Stanley AronsonIf human illness were strictly a private matter, never impinging upon the health, freedom or affairs of others, there would be little ambiguity or dispute concerning the need for health regulations; indeed, there would be no need for any public health legislation since each person’s health, just as each person’s bank account or sex life, would then remain a strictly personal matter. But, medically speaking, no man is an island entire unto himself. And, to paraphrase Donne still further, any man’s illness diminishes us because we are involved in mankind.